From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 3, Number 8 - May 22, 2003
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

How to build a chain of title

by Cat Urbigkit

Ruthe Hage Agee, Wayne Hage's daughter, explained the major points in creating a chain of title for a ranch. The chain of title was the preponderance of evidence the federal judge used to base his findings in the Hage case, according to Helen Chenoweth Hage.

Agee strongly advocated that a member of the family take on the task of creating the chain of title and said the result will be a firm conviction for exactly what property rights that ranch holds. Use a yellow highlighter to draw attention to significant portions of the documents.

Deed search: Work with the county clerk or county recorder in tracing back every change of ownership as reflected in the county records. Be sure to get a certified copy of every page in these links to the chain.

Write to the Bureau of Land Management's land office and request a certified copy of the original patent to the ranch. Once this is received, have it officially recorded in the county clerk's office.

Try to find out about Homestead Act entries, which can either be found in the miscellaneous books in the clerk's office, or may be held at the state level. At any rate, use the earliest date on the earliest deed to begin the homestead search.

These documents will describe the lands included in the ranch, and may note that "appurtenances" are included. These appurtenances are the fee lands or allotments.

Contact the State Engineer's Office to receive certified copies of the certification of appropriation. Also, be sure to check any water books in the county clerk's office, and be on the lookout for court degrees as well.

Ask the federal land management agency to provide you with copies of the original plat map and survey of your allotment, as well as the land adjudication allocating so much range to a certain number of grazing animals. These are public records.

Check the county clerk's tax records, books of mortgages and miscellaneous books for any other documents that pertain to your ranch at any time. A 1913 tax assessment may show just how far back you have paid taxes for production occurring on not just on patented land, but on fee land or grazing allotments as well.

When the record is gathered, compile it in this order: Cover sheet (stating that it is a record of title to a certain ranch, complied by whom, with the date); Index (simply the list of documents in order); History (a one- or two-page summary of the chain of ownership, from earliest to present); Map, followed by all the supporting documents, from the most current to the oldest.

Take the compiled document to a title company to have it certified, and then have it recorded in the county clerk's office.

When the work is completed, Ruthe Hage Agee said, "You won't be confused about what you actually own."

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